For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
Scaled down version of the controversial laws the govt. sought to introduce last year
By Chandani Kirinde
The government is to set up a Broadcasting Authority to regulate activities of both the state and private media.
“The SLRC Act and the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Act under which these organizations operate at present are obsolete and new laws are required to regulate both the state and the private stations,” Secretary to the Ministry of Mass Media and Information W.B. Ganegala said. He said the body would monitor the activities of television and radio stations, issue media guidelines and regulate the licensing process in the sector.
Meanwhile the government has gazetted regulations for the issuance of licences to new private television broadcasting stations, internet service providers and telephone networks.
The regulations will apply only to new applicants, Mr. Ganegala said. Under the new regulations, applicants will need to furnish financial details of the organization which seek to operate the service and submit an investment plan or an annual report to the Ministry.
The applicants will also have to furnish professional qualifications and competencies of those running the organization and if it is a company furnish the names and details of its board of directors. The new regulations also require applicants who wish to establish an internet based or telephony based broadcasting station to hold a valid licence issued by the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka.
The new regulations are a scaled down version of the controversial regulations the government sought to introduce late last year which placed restrictions on news telecasts as well as other material disseminated over the internet. The regulations were challenged in the Supreme Court which shot down most of the them.
At present private television and radio stations are provided ‘temporary’ licences’ under the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Act and can operate with it for an unspecified period. Sixteen private televisions function under the Act.